On May 9, Mahmoud Salem addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Mr. Salem, a renowned Egyptian blogger better known as “Sandmonkey,” is a longtime analyst of Egyptian political affairs and advocate for free speech and democracy. He ran as a parliamentary candidate last year on the ticket of the Free Egyptians Party. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of his remarks.
THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION
Fifteen months after the Egyptian revolution, the largely secular youth movement on the streets of Egypt has lost much of its enthusiasm. As the deadline for the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to transfer power looms ever closer, the most pressing issue for Egypt’s revolutionaries is their lack of representation in the formation of a new government in the place of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which they were instrumental in toppling.
The revolutionary youth, however, have failed to articulate clear demands to negotiate with the various presidential candidates. Instead of endorsing one viable candidate to represent their interests, they have backed disparate—and failed–campaigns. Consider that of Khaled Ali, a young lawyer who has emerged as a symbol of the liberal youth, but who will win few votes. Ali may be granted an equally symbolic spot in the cabinet, but his candidacy ultimately will only serve to dilute their potential influence. The failure to provide a valid revolutionary candidate leads to even more division among the already fragmented Egyptian street movement.
The Islamists, on the other hand, have been relatively well organized. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is losing popularity with the public, which began to distrust the group following its decision to field a presidential candidate despite previous promises to the contrary. If the current parliament is dissolved, the MB will likely perform poorly in the ensuing parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, the Salafist Nour Party — a more extremist Islamist group — is well positioned to reap the political benefit should the MB’s star decline.
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